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Kansas - Leftoverture CD (album) cover

LEFTOVERTURE

Kansas

 

Symphonic Prog

4.22 | 657 ratings

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AtomicCrimsonRush
Special Collaborator
Symphonic Team
4 stars Kansas's "Leftoverture" is literally a magnum opus of songs linked to a thematic concept.

'Point of Know Return' and 'Leftoverture' are both real progressive conceptual works and as good as Kansas gets. On "Leftoverture" the band consist of Kerry Livgren on guitar, keyboards, Robby Steinhardt on lead vocals, violin, viola, Steve Walsh on lead vocals, keyboards, vibes, Dave Hope on bass, Phil Ehart on drums, and Rich Williams on acoustic and electric guitars. This lineup is one of the most celebrated in Kansas' long tenure. The music on the album is virtuoso and features some of the best known Kansas compositions with incredibly inventive structures and adventurous time sigs, wrapped up in a concept.

The album cover is striking and one that I treasure in my vinyl collection. The image of an old sage with a scroll pondering over his work is perhaps as striking as Gryphons "Red Queen to Bishop Three" cover. The medieval concept of a Nostradamus like figure or Leaonardo Da Vinci is a perfect conceptual image for Kansas to indulge in.

'Carry on Wayward Son' begins proceeding with a bonafide classic and featured on many rock compilations as well as every Kansas compilation and live show. It is the quintessential Kansas with killer riffs and fantastic melodies building to an unforgettable chorus. The music is wonderful, especially the half time feel with heavy guitars. The band harmonise well and and this is the best Kansas song without a doubt, making them milions deservedly.

'The Wall' has a nice steady beat but sounds very AOR to me and I am not a fan. Kansas will return to a stronger AOR sound in years to follow. 'What's on my mind' has a good guitar intro and then soft rock verses building to heavier guitar on chorus. Not prog but a nice melody.

'Miracles out of nowhere' has a chiming vibraphone intro and very nice Hammond layered with an odd time sig and then acoustic and gentle vocals. Love the feel of this and much more proggy than last 2 songs. The half time section is medieval and has an odd 7/8 meter with very progressive keyboard instrumentation. The sig changes again to an unusual meter, as violins begin and a wall of sound opens up. A new time shift as the tempo quickens and a scorching lead break is heard makes this one of the definitive higlights. An underrated classic for Kansas.

Side two of the vinyl is definitely the proggiest Kansas with a huge suite of songs to create an opus and indeed the first part is titled 'Opus insert'. The lyrics are performed strongly by Steinhardt; "There's a reason for all that rhymes, it's the fact and the way of the times, It's moving emotion, it's high and it's low, no matter where you go, There is something for all who look, there's a story in every book, All of the pages, between all the lines, so much that you can find, But there's too many empty lives my friend". The music changes meter throughout and has some majestic keys and a very bombastic style. It is followed by 'Questions of my childhood'.

This is a shorter song with similar time shifts and inspring lyrics; "When the sun is in the mid sky, he wears a golden crown, And he soaks the world with sunshine as he makes another round, It's been a faster year than yesterday, all the things that I had planned, And when I think I might be gaining, I'm in the sunshine once again." The sound is uplifting with washes of melodic keys, and a strong beat that gets faster during the keyboard solo that fades.

'Cheyenne anthem' is a ballad about the sadness of the cruel treatment against the Cheyenne Indians, and features beautiful instrumentation, keys, violins, medieval guitar, and loud percussion. It builds in speed in the middle as a frenetic keyboard solo comes in and vibraphone. The Gentle Giant sigs are odd and the thumping rhythm in the medial section is almost like a circus polka theme, but it is a cynical melody in contrast to the content. It has powerful lyrics about the death of the Cheyenne people robbed of their land and finishes with; "Soon these days shall pass away, For our freedom we must pay, All our words and deeds are carried on the wind, In the ground our bodies lay, here we lay". The poignant content is matched by sombre melodies and a melancholy children's choir. It finishes with one last majestic soundscape.

'Magnum opus' is the longest track at 8 minutes. It begins with pounding drums of war, and then Livgren's howling keyboards and a steady rhythm. The track takes off into a lengthy instrumental section with inventive sigs, musicians taking turns to shine on guitar, keyboards and all brought together by the rhythm machine of bass and drums sounding like Focus or ELP. There is an ominous melody and it all sounds so massive with a wall of sound that keeps up a compelling melody with vibes, marimba and violins. It slows into the main theme towards the end, swathes of keys, soaring guitars and a finale that ends suddenly on a high note. Incredible masterpiece of prog and typifies Kansas at their very best.

In conclusion this is definitely one of the best Kansas albums and features their most beloved tracks. The exceptional single 'Carry on Wayward Son', the quasi-mystical 'Miracles out of nowhere' and all of side two make this an essential album and one of the best in 1976.

AtomicCrimsonRush | 4/5 |

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